by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, PM, FMLR
|Kearney Lodge No. 311 (MO) sign|
Our Illustrious Blogmeister
Todd has requested we send pictures of Masonic signs. I guess this is my way of doing that. I live in Kearney, Missouri (Not to be
confused with Kearney, Nebraska, which it often is). We're located about 20 miles northeast of
Kansas City and in spite of the fact that civilization keeps oozing our way,
we're still somewhat rural. One hundred
thirty years ago, Kearney was a thriving farming and commerce center. The Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad (now the
Burlington Northern Santa Fe) stopped here, giving businesses critical access
to both Chicago and Kansas City.
In that year, 1882, Kearney
saw two significant events. First,
foremost and, like-it-or-not, the one that puts us on the map, our favorite but
oh-so-notorious son, Jesse James met his untimely and violent end and was
buried here. There have been, over the
years, those who have claimed Jesse isn't buried here and didn't even die
then. In 1994, we got fed up with all
that, dug him up, ran tests, proved it was him and put him back in a shiny new
coffin. So there. I attended that auspicious event where vendors were doing a
brisk business selling T-shirts that said, "In Kearney, We Dig
To get back to the point, the
other big event in Kearney in 1882 was the completion of the Masonic
Lodge. I doubt Jesse ever saw the
building. He was way up in St. Joseph at
the time and was otherwise occupied until they brought him back on ice
(really). That 1882 building still
stands at what was the town's main intersection. I'm certain it was, at the time, the most
magnificent building Kearney had ever seen.
I don't have exact dates but probably about 25-30 years ago Kearney
Lodge surrendered its charter and then re-chartered in the mid-2000s. I affiliated immediately and since then,
Kearney Lodge #311 has continued to grow.
We still don't have a permanent building, but every time I go into town,
I spend a few minutes looking at that old building with its weathering concrete
Masonic sign (it's not a cornerstone) and wish it was ours. Maybe someday it will be. No matter what happens, I hope we can at
least get back that terrific old sign, a reminder of days gone by.
|Liberty Lodge No. 31 (MO) sign--well worth the 5K donation!|
Since there was no Kearney
Lodge when I became a Mason, I joined Liberty Lodge #31, about six or seven
miles south. The town of Liberty is a
whole different story. The streets are
paved with gold and cash flows from the fire hydrants. Not quite, but almost. It's a bustling, growing, thriving area. And Liberty Lodge (in spite of what our
budget committee might claim) has thrived right along with it. When I joined, we owned our own building
smack-dab on the town square, had paying tenants and life was good. Then Sunday, May 4, 2003, waltzed in and
spoiled the party.
That day, an F2 tornado
rolled through. Our Lodge building took
a direct hit. It actually cracked the
building in half, ripped our two-ton air conditioning unit from its rooftop
foundation and not-so-gently dumped it on the street below. Engineers at first told us the building was
lost, an assessment that fortunately turned out not to be true. It took months of work and lots of money, but
we restored the building to a condition better than before the tornado hit.
What insurance didn't cover, we did.
|Jesse James went down the year Kearney Lodge went up!|
We had moved into that
building in the early 1950s. Our sign
was a somewhat elaborate affair which hung perpendicular to the building. On both sides, it had the emblems of the Masonic
bodies there and whenever any of those bodies met, that portion of the sign was
lighted. Needless to say, the sign did
not survive. We found enough pieces of
it that we were able to give it to an artist to recreate the glass sheets on either
side, but there was a problem.
In the intervening years,
Liberty had passed an ordinance that, for whatever reason, signs on the square
had to be parallel to the building. At
first, the city told us we could not replace the sign in its perpendicular
configuration. We prefer to think it was
our excellent negotiation skills and not the $5,000 we donated to the disaster
fund that reversed the town's decision.
At any rate, if you drive around the Liberty square today, you'll
recognize our landmark sign. It's the
only one on the square perpendicular to a building. And we're still smack-dab on the town square,
have paying tenants and life is good.
Steve Harrison, 32° KCCH is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi,
a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden.
He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley
of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of
the DeMolay Legion of Honor.